The trial of the former guardian of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp began in a court in Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany. Today 100-year-old Josef S. is accused of having consciously and voluntarily helped in the cruel murder of over 3,000 people as an SS member. In 1944, the commander-in-chief of the Home Army, Stefan “Grot” Rowecki, was killed there.
Josef S. is accused of deliberately assisting the shooting of Soviet prisoners of war and murdering prisoners using Zyklon B poison gas in 3,518 cases between January 1942 and February 1945. As an SS guard, Josef S. also contributed to the death of prisoners from due to disease, starvation, forced labor or systematic extermination. In the indictment the accusation reads: “aiding in the killing of prisoners by creating and maintaining unfriendly conditions for life”.
Before the trial of Josef S., the International Auschwitz Committee (IAK) drew attention to the importance of this trial for the relatives of the victims. “Most of the perpetrators of the SS were silent, always silent, and this contained contempt for the victims,” IAK Vice President Christoph Heubner said at a press conference on Wednesday. “This is how the relatives of the (victims) always felt it,” he added.
“It is remarkable that the 1st Criminal Chamber of the Neuruppin District Court is examining the case in Brandenburg an der Havel”, but “this is due to the accused’s old age,” notes the daily Berliner Zeitung. Though 100-year-old Josef S. is “fit to appear before a court, but according to his medical report he can only do so for two to three hours a day, including travel time to the courtroom.” Therefore, it makes sense to move the trial close to the accused’s place of residence, explained court spokeswoman Iris le Claire. In addition, the District Court in Neuruppin does not have a large enough room for this highly interesting trial.
The trial of a former concentration camp guard
Josef S. lives in Brandenburg an der Havel. Born in Lithuania in 1920, he was to volunteer to serve in the Totenkopf battalions as the so-called volksdeutsch. He served as an SS guard in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and performed the full range of guard duties there, reports “BZ”. A few weeks before the end of World War II, he was sent to the front and was taken into Soviet captivity. Later he lived in the GDR and worked in an agricultural production cooperative until his retirement. She will celebrate her 101st birthday next month.
For a long time, the SS guards were brought to trial only if it could be proved that they had individually contributed to the commission of the crime. That changed in 2011, when former concentration camp ranger Ivan Demianiuk was sentenced to five years in prison for helping 28,000 murders.
Demianiuk cannot be attributed to any specific crime. However, the District Court in Munich ruled that Demianiuk’s service in the German Nazi concentration camp in Sobibór in 1943 was a crime of complicity in murder. The accused belonged to the extermination machine. The conviction never became final, because Demianiuk died shortly thereafter at the age of 91 – recalls the “Berliner Zeitung”.
“The judgment in the Demianiuk case was an impulse to search archives all over the world” – notes the rbb24 portal. This is the task of investigators from the Central Office for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Ludwigsburg. – In the case of a man from Brandenburg an der Havel, we found what we were looking for in the Moscow State Military Archives. There are personal files and administrative documents from Sachsenhausen, says head of the office, senior prosecutor Thomas Will.
Sachsenhausen concentration camp
In the years 1936-1945, over 200,000 people were imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. About 100,000 died as a result of the conditions in the camp, medical experiments or were murdered. The guard consisted of over 3,500 SS men and several hundred women. Their tasks also included searching for escaped prisoners and participating in executions.
In the concentration camp in Sachsenhausen in 1944, the commander-in-chief of the Home Army, Stefan “Grot” Rowecki, was murdered.
Main photo source: Reuters